Monumental delays

Better late than never: The old saying holds true in Greece especially, where even self-evident facts often run up against parochial stereotypes. Nevertheless, it took a very long time, until yesterday, before Greece finally announced that its museums and archaeological sites will remain open to visitors until late in the evening. The decision to extend site opening hours was a long time in coming, despite repeated assurances from politicians about how important tourism is for the local economy. The delay is typical of a deeply ingrained mentality that has hampered the country’s economic growth and people’s access to monuments. To be sure, such decisions are inconvenient for some civil servants. However, they are paid to adapt their work to specific needs and not vice versa. However, as always, the coin has two sides. One is the hurdles raised by bureaucrats and vested interests. The other is the state’s responsibilities. In order to fulfill the premier’s commitment, the government will have either to recruit extensively, or else transfer personnel from other sectors at a time when staff shortages are already a serious problem. Also the government must make archaeological sites more attractive and functional – an aim that requires a comprehensive plan and, quite likely, higher ticket prices as well. Many of these problems can be solved at no financial cost. However, any such initiatives tend to hit social resistance, vested interests or plain misgivings. If the government wishes to overcome these obstacles, it will simultaneously have to show determination and sensitivity. The ultimate goal is non-negotiable. But any reasonable objections can be discussed constructively. This presupposes carefully planned intervention, consistency and continuity. Only then will long-delayed and self-evident reforms cease to be regarded as revolutionary acts.